Why did Pro-Life Gov. Kasich Veto the Heartbeat Bill?

Yesterday, Ohio Governor Kasich vetoed a bill that would have banned abortion after the heartbeat of an unborn child is detected – at 6 weeks gestation. At the same time he signed into law a bill that made it illegal to abort a child after 20 weeks gestation to prevent late-term abortions on children that science says can feel the pain of being aborted.

What gives? Why sign one and veto the other?

Governor Kasich is a pro-life governor. He has signed 18 pro-life bills into law (according to Planned Parenthood). This is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of Governor Kasich’s veto of the heartbeat bill – simply, here are both sides of the pro-life strategy. Which strategy do you think is best for the pro-life movement? Did Governor Kasich do the right thing or the wrong thing? You decide.

The strategy behind vetoing the legislation:

For 40+ years, the pro-life movement has been in it for the long haul; we will never rest until abortion is completely unthinkable and illegal. However, legal scholars warn that the heartbeat bill is unconstitutional because of the pro-abortion Supreme Court decisions: Roe, Doe, and Casey. These three Supreme Court decisions defined the abortion law, such that a heartbeat bill will be struck down by the courts.

Governor Kasich knows this. So why not sign it anyways?

We must analyze the damage that passing this law could do if it was struck down as unconstitutional. If this law went before the U.S. Supreme Court, the court would strike it down, prohibiting any state in the country from passing a heartbeat law until we completely overturned the legalization of abortion (or until the Supreme Court agreed to rehear the heartbeat case – an extremely rare situation in the short term.)

Governor Kasich saw other heartbeat laws across the country being struck down by lower courts. So, the long term pro-life strategy in this scenario prevails: “I’m not saying no, but just not right now.” This is an effort to give it the best chance possible of becoming a long-term law. If, in the next four or eight years, President-Elect Trump appoints two or three more pro-life Justices, it would then be time for a heartbeat bill, as we would have the pro-life majority to roll back the legalization of abortion either entirely or partially. Hence, this is why Governor Kasich vetoed the heartbeat bill.

The 20 week ban, on the other hand, has much stronger legal ground to stand on. The previous abortion cases have held that abortion can be limited in terms of viability. That’s exactly what the 20 week ban does.

The strategy behind signing the legislation:

As we work toward a future of making abortion unthinkable, every pro-life person must keep sight of the fact that every ONE baby saved is important. We have a moral duty to do everything possible to save a child right now. By signing the heartbeat bill, Governor Kasich may have stopped one baby from being aborted, either because his mother was too far along or she learned through the law that her baby’s heart was beating and chose life. Though our goal is to save as many babies as possible, we also must never be careless and forgo saving one baby’s life in a quest to save many babies lives. That’s what being pro-life is about. Every one life matters. Though legal strategies are important to advance the movement, they can also be adapted and changed as obstacles arise.

These are the two pro-life strategies. While there may be good reasoning behind both, we shouldn’t lose sight of the victory here: not only did Ohio succeed in passing a 20 week ban, Governor Kasich signed a bill with no rape and incest exceptions – exceptions which Governor Kasich has been in support of. This is something to celebrate.